NH teacher, 100, gets degree a day before dying

CONCORD, N.H. – It was Harriet Richardson Ames’ dream to earn her bachelor’s degree in education. She finally reached that milestone, nearly three weeks after achieving another: her 100th birthday.

On Saturday, the day after receiving her diploma at her bedside, the retired schoolteacher died, pleased that she had accomplished her goal, her daughter said. Ames had been in hospice care.

“She had what I call a ‘bucket list,’ and that was the last thing on it,” Marjorie Carpenter said Tuesday.

Ames, who turned 100 on Jan. 2, had earned a two-year teaching certificate in 1931 at Keene Normal School, now Keene State College. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse in South Newbury, and later spent 20 years as a teaching principal at Memorial School in Pittsfield, where she taught first-graders.

Through the years, she had taken classes at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth Teachers College and Keene State to earn credits for her degree. With her eyesight failing, she stopped after retiring in 1971 and was never sure if she had enough credits.

Her wish for a degree became known when a Keene State film professor interviewed her a couple of years ago for a piece on the college’s own centennial, which the school celebrated last year.

The school decided to research her coursework and see if it could award Ames her long-sought diploma. The offices of the provost, registrar and other departments worked quickly in the last month to determine, that indeed, it could.

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